Beware! Starbucks Carb Count Warning: The Secret Sugar In Your Iced Coffee or Tea


Keto SnacksThis is tricky and sneaky… and you’ll want to share this with everyone you know!

I’ve made this mistake SO many times myself over the years, and I *shudder* to think how it affects diabetics and others who are super sensitive to sugar.

Not to mention the fact that it can throw you right out of ketosis! 🙄

I discussed this live inside our Low Carb Challenge Group the other night, and I recorded that conversation – so you can watch the video below.

But I want to make some corrections too, so keep reading…


Starbucks Iced Coffee Includes “Sugar Water” By Default!

According to their website the hot brewed coffee like Blonde Roast or Pike Place does NOT contain “Classic Syrup” – which is basically just sugar water:

“Classic Syrup [Sugar, Water, Natural Flavors, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid]”

By default, the Iced Coffee – even if you order it black – DOES come “lightly sweetened” using up to SIX pumps of their Classic Syrup.

This means that a Large (Venti, 20 ounce) “black iced coffee” – which you would ASSUME is just coffee and ice – has 30 grams of sugar, and is 30 carbs.

Again, that is BY DEFAULT.

It says on their website that the Starbucks Iced Coffee is served “chilled and lightly sweetened over ice.”

If you order your iced coffee with a sugar free syrup, such as “a Venti Iced Coffee with sugar free vanilla and heavy cream please” – most baristas KNOW to leave out the Classic Syrup.

But regardless of how you order your coffee or tea at Starbucks, hot or cold, to be on the safe side you should always say: “No Classic Syrup, please.”

Your drink tag should SAY “no classic” on it:

Tricky Starbucks Carb Count - Secret Sugar Spike in your Coffee!

Otherwise you may be getting a BIG dose of unexpected sugar!

And I can tell you from personal experience… you cannot even taste it. Their coffee is quite stout/bitter, so even with the 20-30 grams of sugar water (depending on the size of your coffee) you aren’t likely to notice it.

Correct Carb Count for Heavy Whipping Cream (HWC)

You’ll notice that I ask for “heavy whipping cream” in my iced coffee. I do like it creamy. 🙂 However, next time I’ll definitely ask for “half the amount” because I find it’s entirely TOO creamy. I do that when I order an iced coffee at McDonald’s too – I ask for half the amount of cream.

Anyway, I would guess that they use AT LEAST 1/3 cup of heavy cream (HWC) in even a small iced coffee at starbucks, going by the color and taste of mine – pictured above.

While most cartons of Heavy Whipping Cream SAY zero carbs on the label, that’s only because the serving size is 1 TBSP. A tablespoon of HWC is actually .4 carbs, so it comes to 7 carbs per cup.

While this may not matter if you’re having 1 tbsp here and there, it certain matters if you’re using 2 full cups in a recipe – or if you’re getting a large iced coffee that has 1/2 cup or more of HWC in it.

Half & Half is .6 carbs per TBSP (9.6 carbs per cup).

HWC or Heavy Whipping Cream is .4 carbs per TBSP (6.4 carbs per cup).

Again, no matter what the label says, as it’s going by serving size – and if it’s less than 1 carb “per serving” they can label it as zero.

If you’ve been logging your HWC as zero carbs, or your entry in MyFitnessPal is incorrect, you’ll want to find an accurate entry to use to log Heavy Whipping Cream.

I use the entry below myself. To find it in MFP, just search: “Usda – Cream, Fluid Heavy Whipping” (without quotes).

HWC - Accurate Carb Count for Heavy Whipping Cream (NOT zero carbs)


Know What’s In Your Coffee!

This shocking little “sugar secret” about the iced coffee at Starbucks really blew me away. But it goes back to taking personal responsibility and knowing what’s in your food and drink choices.

The only way to know for sure is to look up the Nutrition Facts online.

Starbucks has a very detailed mobile app so you can look things up on the go. You can also look up their menu items online, and discover that a Venti Caffè Americano is 4 carbs.

Most chains provide nutrition facts online, and also offer a mobile app where you can customize your meal or food choices to get accurate nutrition facts. That’s how I discovered that the ranch dressing at McDonald’s is TEN net carbs! 😯

To make it easy I usually carry my own coffee creamer with me on road trips, or when I’m out & about – so I can just get a black coffee. I am currently using Coffee-Mate Sugar Free Powdered Hazelnut coffee creamer (below).

The powdered creamer is less carbs than the liquid, and more portable – no refrigeration required, so it’s great for road trips & hotel rooms. 🙂

The hazelnut flavor is the ONLY one I’ve found that I actually like, AND it’s lower in carbs than the other sugar free flavors.

Sugar Free Coffee Creamer

I’ve made the mistake of ordering a “large black iced coffee” at Starbucks more than once, or a “large iced coffee with heavy cream” and sometimes sugar free vanilla.

Just make sure you say “no classic syrup please” so you KNOW you aren’t getting the extra sugar water (and lots of extra carbs!). 😉

I’m not sure how much heavy cream they put into my coffees when I ask for “Heavy Whipping Cream” instead of milk or half & half, but for my small iced coffee pictured above – I logged it as 1/3 cup. Although I would venture to guess it may have even been 1/2 cup – which would come to 3.2 carbs (at .4 carbs per TBSP).

The iced tea at Starbucks is also served “lightly sweetened” by default.

A Venti Teavana® Shaken Iced Black Tea is 16 carbs, with 16 grams of sugar – even though sugar is NOT listed in the ingredients on their website…

Lynn Terry,
aka @LowCarbTraveler


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About Lynn Terry

I love making the low carb diet EASY for people with a busy lifestyle (like me!) with my KISS / Keep It Simple method. :) About Lynn Terry: Host of the Low Carb Challenge
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34 Responses to Beware! Starbucks Carb Count Warning: The Secret Sugar In Your Iced Coffee or Tea

  1. Bree says:

    Thanks for the info , I completely agree that the taste of their coffee would make it hard to tell if anything else is in it ! Yikes !

  2. Wow! Just checked the ingredients and nutritional info in the UK. Their Latte packs a real carb punch – more so with the milk alternatives that I drink. The Americanos seem OK here though. Thanks for the info 🙂

  3. Kathy E says:

    I find most Starbucks baristas ask if you want sweetener added to the iced coffee. I always say no sweeteners added for hot or cold beverages at Starbucks or McDonalds. If ordering using a mobile ordering app on my phone, I can order things by saying a splash of heavy whipping cream. Otherwise they can use so much of the heavy whipping cream, I found my hot drinks are sometimes just lukewarm. Yes, be careful of the heavy whipping cream added. Too much is just too much!

    • Lynn Terry says:

      You’re lucky they ask, given it’s the standard way of making their iced drinks. I just discovered McDonald’s shows “sugar water” as an ingredient (by default) on their iced coffee as well – on the nutrition calculator on their website. I’ll have to make sure to ask them to leave that OUT next time I order iced coffee there too! 😛

  4. Patricia L. says:

    I have had the same heavy cream experience as you… when I asked for heavy cream in place of whatever dairy they use they always add the same amount as what they would on regular milk etc so I always have to ask for 1/2 or less. When I forget i normally can’t finish it because it’s so creamy.

    That’s very good information to have!!! I hardly go to Starbucks but when I do I order iced coffee with HWC and sugar free syrup. I tell them “that’s all I want in it please” but if the classic syrup is just part of the norm I’ve probably got it in mine every time!! I think I’ll skip Starbucks to be safe!

    It’s very surprising how many extra carbs are in things. We went to chilis the other day and I was considering ordering fajitas without the extras. I know veggies have carbs…. But their fajitas were 23-26 carbs per plate. I had no idea they were that much. You are correct…. looking up the info for yourself and being responsible is key!

    • Lynn Terry says:

      I don’t think the fajitas would be that high in carbs without the tortillas – just the meat & veggies. Where did you get that carb count? Perhaps it was inaccurate, or included something other than the meat & veggies… ?

      Or maybe it was marinated steak/chicken?

      • Patricia L. says:

        I got the info from chilies PDF nutrition guide. It said “Fajitias w/o toppings, tortilla, or sides”. I didn’t subtract fiber so 4 less than those totals.. but still pretty high. I also thought it might be the meat but in the section right below it list the fajita meats (steak etc) for 1 carb.

        I thought that seemed super high also…. maybe there is something extra the throw in their we don’t know about. Some secret sauce or something?

        • Lynn Terry says:

          I know onions and peppers can really add up, especially sweet onion – but I think they use white onion. I might be inclined to call the corporate office or even speak to the local manager and just ask… because I’m curious like that. 🙂 lol

  5. Donna says:

    Wow, that is amazing news. I had no idea.
    I will order more carefully when I go there and not assume anything.
    Thanks for the post, such an eye opener, they create the perfect addiction, sugar, fat, caffeine all in one! Buyer beware!

    • Lynn Terry says:

      Yes, and it’s important to ask for heavy whipping cream or half & half – and maybe half the usual amount (because they use A LOT). Because their coconut milk and other dairies also have a lot of sugar in them. 😉

  6. Stephanie says:

    Not sure if you know but SF vanilla also has maltodextrin. Only SF cinnamon dolce is actually SF.

  7. Joelle says:

    I’m in the app right now and looking at a 16 oz iced americano. It shows 3 carbs but 0 sugars. And lists espresso and water as the only ingredients. I’m so confused.

    • Lynn Terry says:

      I’ve noticed that on their other espresso drinks. I’m wondering if it’s because of the trace carbs found in coffee beans, and perhaps the condensed amount used in espresso drinks?

  8. Crystal says:

    Black coffee means nothing in it. Baristas do not put anything in the a black iced coffee and that is what they are trained to do. I worked there for years.

  9. Dawn Gulik says:

    I’m confused about the carb count for the americano as well.

  10. Jennifer says:

    I love the iced Carmel macchiato but I’m trying to get back to my Keto diet & I need to know how to order it.
    So.. today I ordered a Grande skinny iced Carmel macchiato with heavy cream & light water. It was really good!
    However, after some research today, so far…. I have come up with a Venti iced white Americano, with heavy cream, no classic syrup & 5 pumps of sugar free vanilla (I’ll add my own SF caramel drizzle)…what do you think? How many carbs do you think that will be? I can’t find an exact recipe but, the most I found on a Starbucks page is 7 carbs..please advise Thanks!

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  16. Jiina says:

    You may want to ask the barista if you can see the label on the Heavy Whipping Cream gallon in your area…as a Starbucks barista, I recently finally asked someone on Keto why they order HWC when it has more sugar than any of our other milks (I was genuinely curious). They corrected me and said it has the least sugar. So I showed them the label of the HWC we use which has 3g of sugar PER Tbsp, which at 16 Tbsp per cup, works out to 48g sugar PER cup! I just looked at the HWC we have at home, and it says 0g per Tbsp as you mention. I don’t know what they do to our HWC to make it so sugary, and I imagine different areas of the country have different milk suppliers, so you may want to check for yourself so you know what you’re getting and can count accurately or adjust your order as needed. BTW, the proprietary almond milk Starbucks uses has only 3g of sugar PER cup (not really creamy at all though).

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  18. Kristin Walker says:

    When I use the app and put no classic syrup, my Tall iced coffee with sugar free vanilla and sugar free cinnamon dolce still comes out to 15g carbs? Is that right?

    • Kristin says:

      Replying to my own comment. I just figured out that when you put customizations in the App the only thing that will change any of your final numbers on the nutrition label is the size of the cup. All of the nutritional information stays as it is made in the standard drink. So even with no classic syrup and sugar free instead- it will still say 30 carbs!

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